Fret not yourself because of evildoers;
be not envious of wrongdoers!
For they will soon fade like the grass
and wither like the green herb.
(Psalm 37: 1-2 ESV)
Psalm 37 presents a very vivid picture of the circumstances that David faced, and the emotions they produced in him. He was caught up in a whirlwind of events which came against him – rapidly and with great force, that he found it difficult to find his feet. He desperately needed help. Like David, how many times in our lives, have we felt overwhelmed by our circumstances, or even by our daily routines, where we feel no longer able to cope with the demands on our time? Our spirits longs for rest and peace; yet feel crushed by all that is happening around us.
As the psalmist said in another place, how we long for the wings of a bird to fly away from it all. Instead we are forced to press on and confront the adversary. The ‘adversary’ could either be people who make things difficult for us or challenging situations that stretch us almost beyond our endurance. Our inner resources seem inadequate to meet the goliath in our lives. So, we cry out to God, “O Lord, please do something.” We long for strength, support, stability, safety and security – all things promised to us in God’s word.
“ Fret not” is a constant refrain throughout this psalm. The Holy Spirit shows us the way out of our struggles. The psalm also teaches us how to rise above and regain control of the situation.
“Trust in the Lord, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday.
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him…” (Psalm 37:3-7 ESV)
It prescribes first of all, a resetting of our attitude towards God. We must stop looking at the storm outside and look instead to God who is waiting patiently for us. Do not engage with the trouble outside, engage with God. And how are we to engage with God?
Trust in the Lord… Delight yourself in the Lord… Commit your way to the Lord… Be still before the Lord… wait patiently for him… hope in Him.
Focus on these words. Read them over and over again, to absorb them into your spirit. Let these words dominate your inner perspective till you no longer feel shaken or fretful because of events outside. As an act of will, take all your troubles and hand them over to God. Say, “Lord, I simply can’t cope. Please take them from me and do with them what You will. I just want to be free to enjoy Your presence.”
We are taught not to follow the example of the ungodly at such times
“Fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!
Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
For the evildoers shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.” (Psalm 37: 1-9 ESV)
The people who live for this world may seem more in control and perhaps successful, that we are tempted to imitate them. In contrast, we feel powerless to effect change. But we should not yield to frustration. “Do not fret. Refrain from anger, and do not give way to wrath…” In other words, there is a strong urge to react in an ungodly manner to the daily pinpricks in our lives. As Christians, we are being trained by God’s Spirit to act, not react. We should not allow ourselves to be controlled by our circumstances or emotions or people who treat us badly. As we call on God, and keep our focus firmly on His promised deliverance, He will set us free from the very natural feelings of annoyance, bitterness and despair.
The psalm goes further in instructing us in how we should act. God is not passive, and neither should we be. We need to be up and doing. Despite being mired in troubles, we must firmly turn our face away from the storm outside, and continue to do good wherever we can. Going against the tide of our natural inclinations and doing the opposite of what we feel like doing, may initially seem strange and forced. We must practise doing good, not because we are comfortable, but as an act of obedience, and because we are confident that God is positioning us for a greater service. As we continue in doing well, we will learn to be happy and fulfilled. The greatest satisfaction in life comes from being at the centre of God’s will.
Finally, this psalm reminds us what God will do for us. Remember, Christ came to set us free, not only from sin, but also from our powerlessness over circumstances. With Him on our side, we are to live as overcomers, not losers. The psalm points out to us what God can and will do for us.
God has already limited the life span of your troubles – they will soon wither like the green herb. The evil will be cut off. God will act for you. He is not passive, no, even now He rises to defend you. “He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday sun.” “God will give you the desires of your heart.” Isn’t all this wonderful? The goodness of God is almost too much to take in. So why should we let things outside dominate our worldview, when the power of God is available to us.
Now we all have a choice. Are we going to allow transient things to overwhelm us, and spend our days worrying and fretting? We may choose, at this very moment to turn our eyes upon God and allow Him to settle our spirits. It is easy to become so engrossed in our struggles, that we forget how powerful our God is. He reigns. He is in perfect control. So, however chaotic things are outside, we may stop fretting, being upset, agonising, worrying.
“For they will soon fade like the grass…” The psalmist reminds us that all troubles are temporary. They pass away and are forgotten like the grass. A new day will dawn, where their power to harm us, upset us or control our lives is permanently broken. We need to keep things in perspective for no enemy is forever in control, if we have God with us. No giant is invincible, when the arm of God is raised on our behalf.
Thank You, Father, for Your love. Help us to trust and not to fret when things go against us. Help us to rely on You, and be confident of Your care and protection every day in our lives. Help us to be still and calm, never giving in to anger or despair. Strengthen us to do what is good and pleasing in Your eyes. in Jesus’ name.